Douglas Coupland’s Predictions for the Coming Decade

I read this a couple of months ago, but only now, in these early days of the new decade*, does it feel right to stamp out the ubiquitous optimism with some good doubt.

Douglas Coupland, a Canadian curmudgeon, lists 45 predictions for the coming decade. Here are the ones that strike me as particularly probable:

2) The future isn’t going to feel futuristic

It’s simply going to feel weird and out-of-control-ish, the way it does now, because too many things are changing too quickly. The reason the future feels odd is because of its unpredictability. If the future didn’t feel weirdly unexpected, then something would be wrong.

5) You’ll spend a lot of your time feeling like a dog leashed to a pole outside the grocery store – separation anxiety will become your permanent state

8) Try to live near a subway entrance

In a world of crazy-expensive oil, it’s the only real estate that will hold its value, if not increase.

10) In the same way you can never go backward to a slower computer, you can never go backward to a lessened state of connectedness

24) It is going to become much easier to explain why you are the way you are

Much of what we now consider “personality” will be explained away as structural and chemical functions of the brain.

38) Knowing everything will become dull

It all started out so graciously: At a dinner for six, a question arises about, say, that Japanese movie you saw in 1997 (Tampopo), or whether or not Joey Bishop is still alive (no). And before long, you know the answer to everything.

And here are some that don’t seem likely at all:

7) Retail will start to resemble Mexican drugstores

In Mexico, if one wishes to buy a toothbrush, one goes to a drugstore where one of every item for sale is on display inside a glass display case that circles the store. One selects the toothbrush and one of an obvious surplus of staff runs to the back to fetch the toothbrush. It’s not very efficient, but it does offer otherwise unemployed people something to do during the day.

11) Old people won’t be quite so clueless

No more “the Google,” because they’ll be just that little bit younger.

13) Enjoy lettuce while you still can

And anything else that arrives in your life from a truck, for that matter. For vegetables, get used to whatever it is they served in railway hotels in the 1890s. Jams. Preserves. Pickled everything.

14) Something smarter than us is going to emerge

Thank you, algorithms and cloud computing.

20) North America can easily fragment quickly as did the Eastern Bloc in 1989

Quebec will decide to quietly and quite pleasantly leave Canada. California contemplates splitting into two states, fiscal and non-fiscal. Cuba becomes a Club Med with weapons. The Hate States will form a coalition.

32) Musical appreciation will shed all age barriers

Draw your own conclusions after reading the full list at the Globe and Mail.

[Article via the Browser. Image via Maet32’s photobucket]

* The 21st century began on January 1st, 2001. Therefore, the first decade of the 21st century ended a few days ago. We can argue about this if you want, but that exercise would be wholly redundant.

January 6, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 2 comments.

10 Simple Rules for Editing Wikipedia

New article out from PLoS Computational Biology targeted at interested, yet non-contributing members of the Wikipedia community.

Here are ten rules to live by if you want to be taken seriously when attempting to edit a Wikipedia article:

  1. Register an Account
  2. Learn the Five Pillars
  3. Be Bold, but Not Reckless
  4. Know Your Audience
  5. Do Not Infringe Copyright
  6. Cite, Cite, Cite
  7. Avoid Shameless Self-Promotion
  8. Share Your Expertise, but Don’t Argue From Authority
  9. Write Neutrally and with Due Weight
  10. Ask for Help

Helpful.  Well written.  To the point.

[DW Logan et al. @ PLoS Computational Biology via the Browser]

[image via xkcd]

October 20, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 1 comment.


Pineberries. Look like strawberries, taste like pineapples. Do want.

Still looking for:



[originally via John Farrier @ Neatoroma, but the link went and died]

[image via Wikimedia Commons]

October 11, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . Smarts. Leave a comment.

How to be an Ass at Parties

Step 1.) Read Wikipedia’s List of Common Misconceptions.

Some Good ones:

  • George Washington did not have wooden teeth. According to a study of Washington’s four known dentures by a forensic anthropologist from the University of Pittsburgh (in collaboration with the National Museum of Dentistry, itself associated with the Smithsonian Museum), the dentures were made of gold, hippopotamus ivory, lead, and human and animal teeth (including horse and donkey teeth).
  • Searing meat does not “seal in” moisture, and in fact may actually cause meat to lose moisture. Generally, meat is seared to create a brown crust with a rich flavor via the Maillard reaction.
  • It is commonly claimed that the Great Wall of China is the only man-made object visible from the Moon. This is false. None of the Apollo astronauts reported seeing any man-made object from the Moon. The misconception is believed to have been popularized by Richard Halliburton decades before the first moon landing.

Step 2.) This part is automatic. You’ll act like a total ass the next time someone mentions that lemmings are suicidal, Napoleon was short, or that George Washington Carver invented peanut butter.

Happy Trolling.

[List of Common Misconceptions via the Browser]

[image via Wikimedia Commons]

October 5, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Smarts. 7 comments.


Wikipedia tells us:

An elliptical trainer (also sometimes called a cross-trainer) is a stationary exercise machine used to simulate walking or running without causing excessive pressure to the joints, hence decreasing the risk of impact injuries.

Smart kitty.

[via John Farrier @ Neatorama]

September 11, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

Rolling Shutter Effect


This weirdness is due to what’s known as the rolling shutter effect which is due to…

a method of image acquisition in which each frame is recorded not from a snapshot of a single point in time, but rather by scanning across the frame either vertically or horizontally. In other words, not all parts of the image are recorded at exactly the same time, even though the whole frame is displayed at the same time during playback. This produces predictable distortions of fast moving objects or when the sensor captures rapid flashes of light. This method is implemented by rolling (moving) the shutter across the exposable image area instead of exposing the image area all at the same time.

[via Your Mind Blown]

September 5, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.

Citation Gimmicks

Scientists are a bickering bunch. Great discussion over at, which, among other things, is a new home for science bloggers who defected from Science Blogs after it imploded.

Anyway, DrugMonkey asked his readers:

How often do you consider, in any way, the identity of the journal in which a finding was published when making your choice?

I was happy to weigh in.

I don’t consider the journal. I do, however, consider the number of citations a paper has already garnered especially if it’s older.
If it was published in 2001 and only has two citations, then it’s probably not the best citation source.
I use Web of Science for this chore.

That comment didn’t go over well with some. Pinus:

wow…people pick what papers to cite based on how many citations it has? seriously? Based on that, once a paper gets enough citations, it is becomes unending loop of building citations?

I pick based on what I am saying. For reviews and other general points that don’t quite require a primary citation, I cite somebody who I think will review it.

DrugMonkey agrees:

Yeah, pinus, agree the circularity is weird. Citing the most-cited also recipe for misciting if you ask me.

I push back directly.

Circularity is weird? Maybe if you’re already an expert in your field, writing reviews, etc. As a recent Master’s graduate I think it’s both a time saver and legitimate practice. Sure, there are times when I think it’s appropriate to shirk this short-cut, but I don’t know enough about my new field to do it all the time.
I think citation nepotism is far more troubling than citing established papers.

DrugMonkey dodges and the conversation goes elsewhere.

If by citing nepotism you mean preferentially choosing your tight science homies’ papers, I’m not really seeing where that is any more objectionable than the practices described in this comment thread.


(Why was I the only one to use my real name?)

[Read more from DrugMonkey @ Scientopia]

[image via thagirion]

September 3, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. 2 comments.

The Future According to Google

I care more about what Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt says about the future than the recently-batty-but-still-very-famous futurist Ray Kurzweil does.

For example, Schmidt thinks that

Every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites.

It’s not all bad news for your unborn grand-kids. More Shmidt:

‘One idea is that more and more searches are done on your behalf without you needing to type.’

‘I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions, they want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.’

Let’s say you’re walking down the street. Because of the info Google has collected about you, ‘we know roughly who you are, roughly what you care about, roughly who your friends are.’ Google also knows, to within a foot, where you are. Mr. Schmidt leaves it to a listener to imagine the possibilities: If you need milk and there’s a place nearby to get milk, Google will remind you to get milk. It will tell you a store ahead has a collection of horse-racing posters, that a 19th-century murder you’ve been reading about took place on the next block.

Says Mr. Schmidt, a generation of powerful handheld devices is just around the corner that will be adept at surprising you with information that you didn’t know you wanted to know.

[Holman W. Jenkins Jr. @ the Wall Street Journal via The Browser]

[image via buzzpirates]

August 25, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading. Leave a comment.

Home Made Laminar Jet

Wikipedia tells us that laminar flow:

“occurs when a fluid flows in parallel layers, with no disruption between the layers.”

“In nonscientific terms laminar flow is ‘smooth,’ while turbulent flow is ‘rough.'”

Smooth is right.

[via Phillip Torrone @ Make Magazine Blog]

August 21, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Video. Leave a comment.